The Legend of 1900 (1998) Poster

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The antidote to all your troubles, "1900" will sweep you away
ToldYaSo20 September 1999
It is at a time like this I wish I could expand my vocabulary to better articulate the virtues and qualities of such a fine film. I also find I'm bursting to talk about this film that I regrettably saw alone. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but desperately want to share it with everyone.

The talented star of "The Legend of 1900", Tim Roth, presented this film along with Clarence Williams III. His encouragement to the audience was that if anyone was the sort who liked to pick apart at films and critique their lack of realism, they should just leave now. He touted this wonderful vision from the director of Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore, and likened the film to a "dream". He also said that if anyone had seen his own film, "The War Zone", that "1900" was the antidote for it. I was slated to see "The War Zone" the next day, but that was fine by me. I managed by a sheer stroke of luck to get into this Canadian premiere and found it to be absolutely extraordinary and the best film I'd seen so far of the Toronto International Film Festival.

It seems as though mere moments after the initial credits, that the wonderful storytelling and incredible music combined with stunning visuals almost had me moved to tears. While I'll admit that I'd be seeing films all day, no film in my recollection had such an impact so quickly.

The story is one of an abandoned baby who is found on a ocean liner by one of the ship's crew. He is unofficially adopted and named "1900" for the year in which he was born. At a very early age the boy demonstrates an extraordinary gift for piano playing which is only strengthened in his passing years. The boy grows up with no official identity, into a man having never taken a step off of the ship onto dry land in his whole life. The young man, played by Tim Roth is encouraged by his dear friend to leave the boat and pursue a life of fame and fortune as the great pianist he has become. 1900 declines, explaining simply that everything he needs is on the boat.

Well, that should be enough to intrigue you; there's much more of course, but I've no desire to spoil it for anyone. I must encourage everyone to see this film, I can hardly imagine anyone being disappointed. It's for music lovers, dreamers, romantics and film buffs everywhere and my greatest hope is that it will be seen by many, many people, especially those I know and love. And after seeing the film, and hearing Tim Roth's words echoing in my mind, he was absolutely right. It is like a dream, a wonderful dream that I wished would never end. And for a future prediction, I see this film as a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination for 1999.
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Dockelektro8 September 2001
As its pianist, this film could be bound for success, but the fact is, it remained relatively obscure. I can't understand why did a movie with this deepness and feeling end up in oblivion. Because, if there are some beautiful movies, this is one of them, from the moment that fantastic Ennio Morricone score begins until we witness the tear-jerking finale. An epic story from tip to toe, we journey through the original story of a man who becomes a pianist on board the boat where he was born. And as he grows, so does the fascination by the others in his art and the questions whether he should take that leap overboard and become a "normal" person. A brilliant movie, from the man who brought us "Cinema Paradiso" and made us all cry, this won't disappoint you, and it's worth by Morricone's score alone. The sequence where the piano floats freely through the dance hall is anthological. A legend of its own.
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Astounding Visuals, Unique Story
ccthemovieman-122 October 2005
This a "sleeper," a very good film few people have heard about. The ones who have reviewed it here obviously know about it and you can see by their comments how well-liked it if you haven't seen it, check it out. In North America, it's called "The Legend Of 1900."

The movie is definitely unique, about a man who spends his entire life on board an ocean liner and is a fantastic piano player. The best thing about this film, to me at least, was not the story- which I did enjoy - but the cinematography. Wow, what a great-looking film. Speaking of looks, Melanie Thierry is gorgeous. Too bad she has only a small part in this movie.

It was nice to see Tim Roth play something other than a detestable villain and Clarence Williams was fun as the arrogant "Jelly Roll Morton," who comes aboard ship to challenge Roth to a piano duel, which has to be seen to be believed. Can you say "outrageous?"

This was filmed by the same man who did the much more well-known Italian film, Cinema Paradiso, and if you appreciate how good-looking that film is, well, this is even better!
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A lovely film that has a heart
howard.schumann24 January 2005
On the first day of the twentieth century, an infant is discovered in the coal room aboard a luxury liner. The worker (Bill Nunn) who discovers the child on The Virginian names him 1900 or more accurately Danny Boodmann T.D. Lemon Nineteen-Hundred. Eight years later the boy loses his "father" in a ship accident but discovers an amazing ability to play the piano and a legend is born. It is indeed The Legend of 1900, a fable by Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso) based on a dramatic monologue by Italian novelist Alessandro Baricco. The story is about a musical prodigy who spends his life aboard a ship, sailing back and forth between the U.S. and Europe, entertaining the passengers with his unique talent but never sharing it with the rest of the world.

The film is narrated by Max (Pruitt Taylor Vince), an American saxophone player whom we meet at the beginning as he tries to pawn his trumpet. On leaving the shop, however, he hears the only recording 1900 ever made, a master that he had broken into pieces but that was later restored. When he finds out that the master came from a ship about to be demolished, he rushes to save 1900 whom he is sure is still aboard. In the process, he tells his story to convince others that 1900 exists. Through flashbacks we learn about 1900 and how he navigated his life from stem to stern. The question throughout the film is whether or not 1900 will abandon the ship and set foot on land? There is a hint that he might do so after he meets a beautiful young woman (Melanie Theirry). She inspires him to compose a beautifully expressive love song while gazing at her through a window, but the only thing that remains is the last copy of the record and an enduring memory.

The Legend of 1900 creates its own world and I confess it is one that I got lost in. This is a lovely film that has a heart. It is sentimental without question but is redeemed by the glorious music by Ennio Morricone, beautiful cinematography by Lajos Koltai, and a terrific jazz piano duel between the adult 1900 (Tim Roth) and Jelly Roll Morton played by Clarence Williams III. 1900's world has clearly defined limits and he is fearful of venturing beyond. Land represents for him a place without boundaries, where people can get lost, a place without beginning or end. To me, The Legend of 1900 may be a metaphor for people who find a comfortable niche for themselves in life and are afraid to take risks to see what the possibilities are. In many cases, as with 1900, the world will never know the contribution they might have made.
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A Great Flick
stratton_assoc11 January 2005
This movie was given to me as a Christmas gift in 2004. My friends know my love of ships and movies, so they knew this would be something I was surely to like. And did I. I would have been deeply disappointed if I had seen this at the local CinePlex, because there are so many excellent scene's you will want to rewind an ponder over, even shed a tear or two. Its the story of a baby boy ( Tim Roth )who is found aboard an ocean liner( by actor Bill Nunn ), who spends his entire life aboard this ship. Its a movie that is wonderfully acted by all the cast. It moves with ease an always keeps you in a slight fog that lifts at the perfect moment. The piano score's are exquisite !!!I found it haunting and moving at the same time. This movie is 2 hours long, but it will glide by so quickly you will want for more. Without spoiling it, the ending scene is powerful, its..............well......I'll let you be the judge. Enjoy, Marco
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A simply beautiful film.
marque91130 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
After seeing this movie I went straight to my video store to buy their copy. Unfortunately, they had only the one copy and wouldn't sell it to me. This movie affected me deeply. It tells the story of a musical prodigy who is born, lives his entire life, and dies on board a cruise liner. The scene where the pianist, named 1900, and his friend "ride" the grand piano around the ballroom as the ship rolls brought me to tears. There is a palpable joy in this scene : captivated by the music, they care not where the piano takes them. And take them it does, through the glass wall of the ballroom and down a corridor where they are confronted by ship's the Captain. He does not admonish the pair, just accepts the situation. When 1900 is challenged by jazz great Jelly Roll Morton to a piano duel, he meets the challenge and annihilates Morton with a performance that left me shaking. I replayed that scene over and over. As a pianist myself, I was entranced, thrilled and amazed by the playing. When 1900 delivers the coup de grace, I literally cheered! You must see this film. It is a very special experience.
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A wonderfully wistful mixture of melodrama and music.
=G=9 February 2001
"The Legend of 1900" wistfully tells its creative, capriciously unpredictable, and musical tall tale with excellence in all aspects of film from sets to sound, costume to casting, and script to screenplay. Roth and Vince work well together in this plaintive, simple story which will captivate those who can make the leap of faith required to "buy in". A good film for all but critics, "Legend" will likely resonate most with those who equate living with musical expression. La vita è musica.
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This is a film for which the medium was invented.
slugthog16 April 2001
"The Legend of 1900" is not the most attractive title for a film and the Italian original, "The Legend of the Oceanic Pianist", is no better. in retrospect there is no title worthy of this film. The marquee should read simply "See This Film, Your Life Will Be Better for It."

The story, music, cinematography, direction and, I hazard to say, a near perfect performance by Tim Roth combine to make for a compelling film. The story is told with a poetic lyricism that is immediately captivating and that is more than enhanced by Lajos Koltai's well stated cinematography. Clarance Williams III's controlled overstatement as an unexpectedly nasty Jelly Roll Morton is the perfect contrast to Roth's underplayed and unworldly 1900.

The American release of the film is 125 minutes. The Italian release was 160 minutes. What are we missing. Maybe this shorter cut is better but I cannot forget the devastation that was wrought on "Once Upon A Time In America" for its 139 minute US theatrical release. I certainly would not be not adverse to being subjected to an additional 35 minutes of the film and judging for myself if it was too long.

Aside from its title the films only flaw is the exit song. After two hours of enthralling instrumentals the vocal on the exit song undercuts rather than underscores a masterful filmic experience.

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The Legend of 1998
linkamo4 March 2005
What an excellent movie! I usually am partial to stupid comedies like Zoolander and other "non-greats" like like Daredevil and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but even I loved this movie! It's a must-see for everyone.

My sister wanted to me watch this with her because she had to for a school assignment, and since I know a lot about things she doesn't (i.e., cinematography, costumes, makeup, etc.) she wanted to know my opinion. And, although those other subtle effects were excellent, I couldn't help but notice that this movie, too, was one of the best. I was angry that I had never even heard of it before, let alone not have been nominated for "Best Picture" in the 1999 Academy Awards!
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Elgroovio19 May 2004
Not a classic, but whoa, some of that piano playing just sweeps you right off your feet. Tim Roth is good as the handsome pianist Nineteenhundred and so is all the the rest of the cast. This cast also includes Clarence Williams III, presumably the grandson of Clarence Williams (the man who wrote the song "Basin Street Blues" one hell of a classic), as Jelly Roll Morton. This leads me on to one of the most impressive parts of the film where Nineteenhundred and Morton have a match to see who is the best pianist. There is some piano playing in this scene which will leave pianists with there mouths hanging open. Probably the best thing about this film is it's music. There are many rousing themes played throughout the film, especially the love theme played while Nineteenhundred kisses a girl he has fallen in love with, a simple yet very effective theme. Another thing that makes this film very good is the fantastic camera-shots, especially one of Nineteenhundred as he stands halfway across the plank which leads him from the boat to New York, undecided whether or not he should leave the boat and head for world-wide celebrity on land, or stay on the boat and remain unknown to anyone but the passengers. I have got to get myself the soundtrack to this film and you have got to see it somehow. Enjoy!
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1 of a kind, unforgettable
A_Different_Drummer9 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
If you love films (trust me, you would not have waded through some 200 reviews to get to this one, if you did not) then chances are you have a weak spot for almost-perfect, self-contained, little gems like this that not only leave you with an experience you will never forget but do so without benefit of precedent or facsimile; that is, they don't mimic anything that came before. Even more astounding is that Roth made his bones playing bad guys (which he does superbly) but in this rare film you get to see another side of him, and, who knew, he is at his core an actor's actor, he can play anything, it just happens he found a niche playing heavies. The scene where Roth's character goes one to one with Williams, whose character is Jelly Roll Morton, is one of the best strips of celluloid ever and if you have the ability to stop and replay, don't be surprised if you watch it (and listen to it) more than once. Bravo.
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This is a film I wish everyone would see -
Spleen4 November 2001
  • the more people see it, the more people there are to help me work out what to make of it. It's hard not to like, and the central conceit, the fantasy story of someone whose entire life is spent crossing and re-crossing the Atlantic, is just delicious - yet there's always something that prevents it from working as it should. There's too much narration. Narration aside, there are too many words. Just before 1900 and the narrator part ways the former explains himself, to some degree, in a longish speech. The speech was necessary: we needed to hear his reasons from his own lips. But once it had been given the scene should have ended. Instead the two characters keep adding postscripts as they walk away from one another - and they're standard, maudlin things which are at odds with what 1900 had been saying a moment ago. Again and again, there are words where there shouldn't be.

But then, it may be that the title character was given too FEW words - at least at first. Because it's so long before we first hear 1900 express his thoughts verbally (and because in the absence of other information about his character we are unwilling to pass judgment on him until he does) it takes too long for us to warm to him. In fact we never warm to him as much as we should.

And yet there are scenes - the piano duel, the girl in the rain - that are just fantastic, that make me reluctant to criticise anything at all. Any film containing moments like those can afford to lose its way at times.

P.S. Of course, a film about a pianist born on the first day of the Twentieth Century ought to be called "The Legend of 1901", which if you asks me sounds better anyway.
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I'll Never Watch Another Movie Again!
beorhhouse21 February 2018
"I'll never watch another movie again!" cried my sweet-hearted wife as she wept uncontrollably as the final scene ended. Touched, I wept with her, but made no such vow. She may not keep the vow either, but I can see why she said what she did. This was my second viewing, her first. This time, though, I was deeply touched by everything in the film. 12 years ago, when I first saw it, it was fun, interesting, and for me a real salvation for an actor--Tim Roth--who normally plays the bad guy. Today I can easily say that of the thousands of films I have seen, this one out-ranks all of them--definitely is #1 in my book. I honestly can think of no other great film that is as good. Mary Poppins comes to mind, but still doesn't make the grade like this one. Oh, and we love, love, love Jazz. There's Ragtime here, and Dixieland, and Roaring 20s Jazz, and other Jazz styles--and even quite a bit of Classical. Roger Waters even steps in for one of his classic solos written for this film--and I'm a big Pink Floyd fan because of, you guessed it, their Jazz influence. I've gushed enough, I guess, but see this one, then get a copy for yourself, and watch it once a year--to remind yourself that the inner world, the inner kingdom, is far and away better than anything that world out there has to offer. Anything.
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A Good Story Worths More than an Old Trumpet
claudio_carvalho21 March 2010
After the Second World War, the American musician Max Tooney (Pruitt Taylor Vince) comes to a pawn shop to sell his trumpet and asks to play one last song with the instrument. The shopkeeper (Peter Vaughn) puts an old record with the same song to play, and Max asks him where he found it since it is an unreleased unique song. He tells that he bought a piano from a scrapped ship and found the pieces of the record inside the piano. Max tells that on January, 1st 1900, the stoker Danny Boodmann (Bill Nunn) of the Steamship "Virginian" finds a baby boy over the piano of the first class in a cradle carved T.D. Lemon and he decides to keep the child. He gives the name of Danny Boodmann T.D. Lemon Nineteen Hundred and raises the child in the boiler room of the passenger ship. Years later, an accident kills Danny Boodmann and the boy leaves the boiler room for the first time and discovers that he is a natural born pianist. When Max is hired to play trumpet in the ship, he becomes a close friend of 1900 (Tim Roth) and witness his life, including the duel with the arrogant "man who had invented the jazz" Jelly Roll Morton (Clarence Williams III) and when he falls in love for a girl (Mélanie Thierry) and almost leaves the vessel in New York. When Max left the ship on August, 21st 1933, he lost contact with 1900. Now he decides to go to the junkyard and find his missing friend. In the end, a good story worths more than an old trumpet.

"La Leggenda del Pianista Sull'Oceano" is a sensitive, poetic and tragic fantasy about music, missing love and friendship, with magnificent direction of Giuseppe Tornatore; top-notch performances of Tim Roth and Pruitt Taylor Vince; and haunting music score of Ennio Morricone. The cinematography, costume design and art direction are wonderful and the dialogs are intense and delightful. This film was released in Brazil on VHS in the 90's by Warner, but deserved at least a DVD. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "A Lenda do Pianista do Mar" ("The Legend of the Pianist of the Sea")
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The BEST piano film ever...
larrydunsmore7 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Well, at the risk of sounding condescending, I am an English jazz pianist who for the past 30 years have worked primarily on cruise ships - some very much like the Virginian. I first saw this movie on cabin TV and it quite literally blew me away, not so much for the whimsical will o' the wisp subject which in itself was haunting and quite beguiling, but for the very reason that I realised to my shock that I had become 1900 in so many ways... least of all that I, like so many other musicians quite simply never got off the ship - anywhere! As for 1900's piano playing - it is incredibly difficult for a non-playing actor to 'mime' to an intricate piece, for example when bass registers are playing, the actor's hands are playing on the top registers! Awful and check out the Tyrone Power Eddie Duchin Story to see how it's not done! Tim Roth had me convinced, even though I knew he wasn't playing... the illusion was perfect. The duel was, despite the predicted outcome... exciting and superbly understated. Fast doesn't mean great but in this case it was. Wihtout doubt one of my favourite films of all time as it is with many of my colleagues in the cruise industry. Whimsical, enchanting, beguiling, poignant and it touches many emotions I hadn't realised I had. I would give it 100 out of 10.
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epic tale of jazz music, friendship, romance and….magic.
THX 11387 February 2002
The story, told by the main character's best friend Max (Pruitt Taylor Vince) takes place on the Virginian, one of the luxurious ocean liners of the Titanic-era. It's an epic tale of jazz music, friendship, romance and….magic. A baby boy is found on the Virginian by one of the ship's stokers. He names the boy after the name on the crate he was found in: T.D.Lemon. Since it's the turn of the century, 1900 is added as his surname. Tim Roth is 1900. Or more accurately: Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon 1900. It turns out that 1900 is a special boy. His gift for the piano makes him a legend. But in order to experience the the piano sound of the legendary master, you have to make a cruise because 1900 never sets foot on land!

The only one to come close to the way 1900's mind works is his friend and colleague Max, an accomplished trumpet player in the ship's band. As Max puts it: `You're never really done for as long as you got a good story and someone to tell it to'. And boy does he tell a beautiful story. A story that will keep you mesmerized all through the film. There are scenes that will definitely put a smile on your face. For instance the scene when 1900 tries to cure Max from his seasickness by offering him a ride on his piano! And what about the piano duel? Watch this movie and find out for yourself. A heart-warming, touching movie with a touch of magic. Highly recommended.
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Wonderful concept, horrible execution.
mseifer7 September 2002
Imagine, if you will, a world. A world where movies have thought provoking premises, eye-popping cinematography, beautiful sets and costumes, and absolutely beautiful music. Now, take all these positives and combine them with contrived dialogue, blind editing, cliches, and a plot that meanders on a journey to nowhere. This is the world of The Legend of 1900.

I'm a big fan of feel good movies, Disney has made more than one feature film that has "pulled at my heart-strings," yet I found it almost impossible to care about this movie. Character development never took place, in fact, I'm not sure acting ever took place. The movie was filled with unrealistic, "magic" moments that might have made more sense in a children's fantasy movie. But this can hardly be considered a children's movie considering the number of times the f-word is used and the feature is too painfully grounded in reality to be considered fantasy.

To call the dialogue tin-eared is almost a compliment and though the director is Italian it's not as if he would be unable to hire someone who did have a clue.

Speaking of directing, why direct a movie that should be an intimate character study with such an epic style? The grandeur of the camera angles/movement is impressive until you finally realize that it's there to entertain you through part of the flat plot.

As plots go, we never really accomplish anything. By the end of the movie, I almost felt that I knew less about 1900 than I did at the beginning. And Vince's character, eyes darting about to the point of distraction, gives a horrible performance with a whimp of a character. Other than serving as 1900's lap-dog and trite narrator he serves no practical purpose whatsoever.

The thing that bothers me most, though, is the number of people singing this movie's praises. Endless reviews calling it "magic" and "unforgettable." It gives me cause to step back and re-examine my long-held views that people aren't generally idiots.

I don't mean to destroy this movie, I simply find myself disappointed. I had hoped for so much more. I would love to see this movie redone by a director who knows English and with a script that follows the same plot without the painfull specifics that drive this feature into the dirt. This movie gets a 3/10. 1 for cinematography, 1 for music, and 1 for a concept that had enough potential to make me pick up this movie on a whim.
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A more general observation
ghica16 July 2002
It is quite inexplicable to me why many North-American critics and viewers have a visceral negative reaction to sentimental Italian movies. By Italian I don't mean necessarily the language but a certain easily identifiable directorial style. So this category contains movies such as _Il Postino_, _Cinema Paradiso_, _Malena_, but also English language films such as _Stealing Beauty_ and _The Legend of 1900_.

What they all have in common, besides beautiful cinematography, is that they try, quietly and modestly but nevertheless ambitiously, to investigate some aspects of the very essence of the human soul. The emotion used by many such movies, especially the ones directed by Tornatore, is nostalgia: by understanding the pain of irrecoverable loss we are supposed to understand what we truly needed. These movies express perfectly HL Mencken's definition of the artist as "one who observes the eternal tragedy of man with full sympathy and understanding, and yet with a touch of god-like remoteness."

However, for reasons I fail to understand, the unavoidable sentimentality of these movies bothers many critics and casual viewers to no end. It's true that sentimental art exposes itself the most to irony and cynicism, but it is nevertheless disappointing to see many critics taking advantage of its vulnerability and indulging in hitting hard and hitting low against such movies. No wonder that art in general, not only movies, is nowadays almost devoid of sentimentality. Artists choose to clad themselves in critic-proof armors of irony and sophistication. Honesty has long become a dangerous no-win proposition.

So I say 'Bravo!' to Tornatore for having the courage to give us some bullshit-free insight into ourselves by showing us what moves us and why. I also say 'Boo!' to the critics who don't get it, and who mistake their expectations and biases for some kind of objective artistic standard.
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This man is a real artist--pianist.
ella-as10 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
He's a man so brave, that he can play the imaginary piano when exploded with the ship he was born, lived and died in. Yet he's a man so scared, that he cannot face the infinite city life we are living everyday. He's a man so intelligent, that he can play the piano as if he has four arms (or I'd rather say, he has God's arms). Yet he's a man so stupid, that he chose to gone with the wind while he's other choice could be marrying a beautiful woman and having a child. He's a man so perceptive, that he could use his music language to describe exactly others' feelings. Yet he's a man so insensitive that he'd rather disappear after a gentle kiss on his beloved while she's asleep than unburden himself and tell her "ILU".

But one thing is for sure: this man is a real artist--pianist. Only a man like him can dance with the piano in a terrifying storm. Only a man like him can give up the first two bouts of a duel, and beat the competitor entirely, convincingly, potently in the last bout. Only a man like him... can have such a beautiful story to tell...

This man is Danny Boodmann T.D. Lemon Nineteen Hundred, who is also known as simply "1900". A man never existed. He has never set foot on land in his entire life. No ID. No passport. No Visa. No parents. No birthday. Nothing in the world belongs to him except his music.

So he played. For the first class guests. For the third class members. For the girl at the window. For the darkness of the night. For the heartbeat of his own. For the sea-- his eternal home.

He had once wanted to get off the ship. To meet his girl and to hear the voice of the sea, as he always wanted to. He hugged friends goodbye and waved and went down. But his pace became slower and slower, and finally stopped. As he described at the end of the movie:

"Nineteen Hundred: All that city. You just couldn't see the end to it. The end? Please? You please just show me where it ends? It was all very fine on that gangway. And I was grand too, in my overcoat. I cut quite a figure. And I was getting off. Guaranteed. There was no problem. It wasn't what I saw that stopped me, Max. It was what I didn't see. You understand that? What I didn't see. In all that sprawling city there was everything except an end. There was no end. What I did not see was where the whole thing came to an end. The end of the world... Take a piano. The keys begin, the keys end. You know there are eighty-eight of them, nobody can tell you any different. They are not infinite. You are infinite. And on these keys the music that you can make is infinite. I like that. That I can live by. You get me up on that gangway and you're rolling out in front of me a keyboard of millions of keys, millions and billions of keys that never end, and that's the truth, Max. That they never end. That keyboard is infinite. And if that keyboard is infinite, then on that keyboard there is no music you can play. You're sitting on the wrong bench. That's God's piano. Christ! Did, did you see the streets? Just the streets?There were thousands of them! And how do you do it down there? How do you choose just one? One woman, one house, one piece of land to call your own, one landscape to look at, one way to die... All that world is weighing down on me, you don't even know where it comes to an end, and aren't you ever just scared of breaking apart at the thought of it? The enormity of living it? I was born on this ship, and the world passed me by, but two thousand people at a time. And there were wishes here, but never more than fit between prow and stern. You played out your happiness, but on a piano that was not infinite. I learned to live that way. Land? Land is a ship too big for me. It's a woman too beautiful; it's a voyage too long, a perfume too strong. It's a music I don't know how to make. I could never get off this ship. At best, I can step off my life. After all, I don't exist for anyone. You're an exception, Max, you're the only one who knows I'm here. You're a minority, and you better get used to it. Forgive me, my friend, but I'm not getting off."

He didn't get off. That's what he said and he did. As I mentioned above, he died with the ship, in the explosion. I believe at this point of the movie, no body can hold their tears back.

By the way, this movie is Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, who is also the director of Nuovo cinema Paradiso and Malèna. Some people say the legend of 1900 is the director's compromise to Hollywood-style-commercial movie. Well, I know nothing about this kind... It's a excellent movie. Much I could say.
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Wonderful and thought-provoking fable of a man whose life was spent aboard a ship.
TxMike13 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
"The Legend of 1900" is unique in many ways, the first being that it is an Italian film with English-speaking characters. Tim Roth who has been cast as a villian most of his career does a remarkable job as the adult '1900', the simple man, a gifted piano player, who had a his own particular take on life. The story begins as a ship worker is crawling around the ballroom floor, looking for valuables lost by the wealthy guests, but instead finds a baby. It is the New Year 1900, thus the baby's name. He is raised in the bowels of the ship until at about age 8 or 10 he is noticed playing the piano. He eventually becomes the ship's piano player, and his reputation spreads until Jelly Roll Morton takes a voyage and challenges '1900.' In the end, he lit his cigarette on the hot piano strings!

some SPOILERS - The film actually starts in more modern times as the trumpet player friend of 1900's is selling his horn and telling the 'Legend of 1900' after the shopkeeper shows him a patched-together record of the piano composition that was lost years earlier, parts hidden in the piano. He tells the story in a series of flashbacks, and at the end finds out the old ship has been stripped of all valuables and is to be sunk the next day by dynamite. But he just knows '1900' must still be aboard the ship, because he knew he never could leave. So he borrows the record and a player and goes to every different part of the dilapidated ship, playing the song, hoping to lure out '1900'. Earlier in the film '1900' said, "My music will never go anywhere without me" and that is why the master disk never left the ship until the piano, with the broken recods hidden in it, ended up in the shop also.

more SPOILERS - '1900' almost left the ship once, he was going to visit NYC and a pretty girl he met, was half-way down the gangplank, suitcase in hand, well-wishers waving goodby, he paused a long time, threw his hat into the water, and went back on the ship. Only years later, as he and his friend spoke in the bowels of the old ship did he explain, "I looked at the city and could not see an 'end.' A piano has 88 keys, you know where it starts and where it ends. But the city alone has hundreds of miles of streets, how do you know which one to take, which girl to love, which house to buy? I could not see an 'end' so I had to stay on the ship." And he did, he had become so accustomed to the small, contained world of the ship that he could not cope with the greater world. Even though it is a movie, one second we are seeing '1900' with a smile, musing about heaven, and the next moment a horrific blast. It is hard to not get jolted by the image.

At 120 minutes this film requires some patience, and the desire to see good character studies over non-stop action. It is impossible to describe in words how good Tim Roth is in this role. We always knew he could play the bad guy, this film crystallizes his overall talent as one of the best in the business. A remarkable story, a legend, with a remarkable character. A superb film.
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Colorful and moving film dealing with a solitary man who becomes a gifted pianist in a luxury ship
ma-cortes18 July 2012
Nostalgic and sensitive picture with stirring drama , ravishing cinematography and moving musical score . An epic story of a man who could do anything , except be ordinary . Shortly after the Second World War, Max , a transplanted American (Pruitt Taylor Vince) , visits an English pawn shop to sell his trumpet , there meets a shopkeeper (Peter Vaughan) and a peculiar musical single . Then Max tells the tale in flashback after learning a ship has been condemned (there was actually a registered ship named the SS Virginian which was built in 1904 and scrapped around 1954). As an abandoned infant is discovered aboard the luxury liner in 1900 and reared by an engine labourer (Bill Nunn) and the crew . As an adult is nicknamed Novecento (Tim Roth) and he has become an expert pianist , but since 1900 remains an enigma .

The picture contains drama and nostalgia completely wrapped in an enjoyable story between a lone pianist and a trumpet player . The story is narrated with great sense and sensibility , the intelligent screenplay based on monologue Novecento by Alessandro Baricco was written by the same Giuseppe Tornatore . Slightly overrated but excellent all the same time , the picture is enjoyable and entertaining , but overlong . Magnificent performance from Tim Roth as virtuoso pianist in the ship's orchestra who has superstitiously never set foot off the boat and Pruitt Taylor Vince as his trumpet man friend . Good acting from remaining cast such as Bill Nunn as Danny Boodmann , Clarence Williams III as Jelly Roll Morton , Mélanie Thierry as The Girl , Gabriele Lavia as Farmer and Peter Vaughan as'Pops', the Shopkeeper . Originally released under various titles and at 170 minutes , it was re-cut and still had its problems . Glowing cinematography with scenarios colorfully and splendidly photographed by Lajos Koltai who reflects the elegant scenarios .As exterior shots of the ship are the inspired blueprints of the SS Lusitania and her sister ship the SS Mauritania, the ballroom in which 1900 plays his piano in had a dome similar to the dome the SS Mauritania had in her ballroom during the transatlantic period . Rousing and moving score musical by the veteran master and prolific Ennio Morricone who was nominated with a deserved Gloden Globe . The picture was well directed by Giuseppe Tornatore who made similar nostalgic films including good actors , such as the excellent ¨Cinema Paradise¨ with Philippe Noiret , ¨Malena¨ with Monica Belucci , ¨ The star maker¨ with Sergio Castellito and ¨Baaria¨ with Raoul Bova ; being his English-language debut feature titled ¨The professor¨ with Ben Gazzara . Rating of ¨La Leggenda del Pianista Sull'Oceano" (original title) or "The Legend of 1900" or "The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean : Better than average, well worth watching for exceptional cinematography , first-rate acting and wonderful score .
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Beautiful tragic film
cincyguy9023 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I agree with most reviewers: This is a beautiful, poetic film, with an enthralling story, beautiful cinematography, and lovely score. But…in the end I found 1900 to be a tragic, flawed character. There was nothing noble in his self-imposed constraint of never setting foot off ship. He came close to leaving the ship but doesn't do so because he was traumatized by the uncertainty of life. His assessment of life was correct: boundaries in life are ill-defined; a person has latitude in how he or she chooses to live their life. A great person is someone who expands their horizons throughout life, who continually seeks more and is willing to take a chance even at risk of failure. 1900, on the other hand, elects to live in a cocoon and prefers to die in his late 40's rather than venture forth. His fear of the unknown resulted in a marginal existence. Except for his "father," he never had any close relationships – 1900 is detached even from Max. He refused to allow a recording of his music to be released because that would involve the unfamiliar "outside" world. He wasn't a sympathetic character for me. The poignancy in this film is that 1900 was someone who could have had a much more meaningful life. I saw the film as a tragedy. Viewed as such, I liked it but it sure was sad to watch.
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NeelyO15 September 1999
Cutesy and pointless, there's little to recommend about this ponderous film besides the Ennio Morricone score and Clarence Williams III's performance as Jelly Roll Morton (expect that he's trapped in a dueling-pianos sequence that just seems to go on forever).

Tim Roth tries valiantly, but his performance is hampered by the fact that he has no character to play; his "1900" is more a labored metaphor than a human being, and there's little this talented actor can do with the weak script (which occasionally has painful bouts of English-as-a-second-language-itis.

But hey, I didn't like "Cinema Paradiso" either, so what do I know...
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Lovely to Look At, but that's about it.
tonstant viewer19 April 2002
First of all, it was nice to see the ship exterior and promenade deck from Fellini's "And the Ship Sails On" once more. Every studio should have its own ship, and the one at Cinecitta is lovely. The overall production design and cinematography of this film are a constant delight.

That being said, this ship gets lost in fog around halfway through, and never finds its way again. As with so many Italian films, this movie is about the grand gesture, but all too often here the gesture is clumsy, badly written or staged, or totally inexplicable. The ballroom piano recital in the rolling storm is a memorable gesture, the playoff with Jelly Roll Morton is phonus bolognus, the closing self-explanation of the main character's life and his vision of heaven is unbearable.

You know something's wrong when, in the opening sequence, a ship filled with immigrants enters New York harbor from the wrong direction, with the Statue of Liberty and the island of Manhattan sliding by in reverse. Did they come in from Albany? Unimportant in itself, this howler shows an autointoxicated disregard for truth in the pursuit of gripping but often unmotivated emotion. This self-indulgence kills the whole film. We are told that Truth is Beauty and Beauty is Truth, but in this movie, one of them is a liar.
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paradisek31 July 2010
This is a movie that will have you thinking about it for a long time after it's finished. It's a unique story, very well written. The cinematography is wonderful. But the soundtrack is enchanting, it takes you somewhere beautiful. There's something romantic about ocean liners of the day & this film captures this wonderfully. Tim Roth is so right for this part, he captures the innocence of someone who has never stepped foot on land, but has a keen sense of people's personalities. The rest of the cast was carefully picked. The Piano duel between 1900 (Tim Roth) and Jelly Roll Martin (Clarence Williams III) is one of the big highlights of the film. The scene that has him recording a song on board the ship while he watches the beautiful Melanie Thierry is poignant. It's right up there with Amadeus. You must buy this film & the soundtrack
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